“He ran rings round me” – Nicky Hunt Recalls Cristiano Ronaldo’s Manchester United Debut

Cristiano Ronaldo 2003
Cristiano Ronaldo 2003

Former Bolton Wanderers right-back Nicky Hunt has recalled his experience of facing 18-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo in Manchester United’s Premier League opener in 2003. Hunt revealed he was not afraid of Ronaldo at first but admitted that the winger got the better of him.

Cristiano Ronaldo ran circles around his opponent in Premier League debut

Recruited from Sporting CP, Ronaldo made his Premier League debut for Manchester United exactly 20 years ago, on August 16, 2003. Ronaldo came on for Nicky Butt in the 61st minute and went up against then-19-year-old Hunt, who was also making his competitive debut. Hunt made a couple of strong tackles on Ronaldo, but the United ace dusted himself off and kept at it until the final whistle.

Speaking to BBC Sport, Hunt shed light on his first meeting with the Portuguese icon. He said:

“When he came on, my first thought wasn’t ‘I am in absolute trouble, he is going to skin me alive’.

“I had just done 70 minutes and thought I had done OK. We were only 1-0 down and to me it was just another player. It was my job to go and tackle him. That is what I did. I smashed him – twice. Then he ran rings round me.”

Hunt admits Manchester United debutant Ronaldo was as good as advertised

The former full-back further revealed that there was a lot of hype surrounding Ronaldo prior to his debut against Bolton. The papers reportedly described him as a new sensation, worthy of all the attention in the world.

Hunt, however, did not believe the hype at first, but his first meeting with the five-time Ballon d’Or winner forced him to reconsider.

The former Bristol City man added:

“When I saw him, he was stick thin. I was a really skinny player. He was scrawny. Black hair with blonde highlights, full of acne.

“You are thinking ‘he is really young, he can’t be as good as they are all making out’. But he was.”

Ronaldo, however, did not score in United’s 4-0 win over Bolton that day. His first United goal came from a sensational free-kick against Portsmouth on November 1, 2003.

Over two spells, the 38-year-old went on to play 346 games for the Mancunians across competitions, scoring 145 times and claiming 64 assists. He won three Premier League titles and a Champions League trophy with the Red Devils, amongst other honors.

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